Online streamers such as Netflix, Disney Plus and Prime Video will soon have to meet minimum standards when it comes to producing local content.
Details on the emerging policy are light thus far, with Tony Burke, minister for the arts, revealing over the weekend simply that the streaming services will have Australian content obligations.
“It’s been 10 years since the last National Cultural Policy. During that time online streaming platforms have taken off, but our Australian content obligations haven’t, I know we can do better,” he said online over the weekend.
Burke then provided more details and a timeline today as part of the Labor Government’s National Cultural Policy Launch.
“The timeline is now locked in,” he said. “The consultation work… begins in earnest now.”
Legislation will be introduced to Parliament in the second half of this year and Burke said by July next year “Australian content obligations will apply to the streaming companies”.
Local content quotas for streamers has been a hot-button issue for the screen sector for years.
Television networks are required by legislation to screen 55% Australian content between 6:00a.m. and midnight on their primary channels. In addition, on their non-primary channels, such as 7Bravo, 9Gem and 10 Bold, there must be 1,460 hours of Australian content per year which screens between 6:00a.m. and midnight.
The streamers, meanwhile, have no such obligation.
Last year, a war of words erupted between the local screen sector and the streamers after a number of claims were made by both sides.
In September, Stan, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus and Paramount Plus released the “Streaming for Australia” report, which was their collective attempt to argue that they make a meaningful cultural and economic contribution to Australia’s creative economy without the need for local content quotas.
In the report, they said “regulatory intervention by government only makes sense when there is a problem to solve”. They also warned that regulation risked distorting the sector and could lead to “unintended consequences”.
This claim poked the bear that is Screen Producers Australia (SPA), which then released its own “Facts and Myths Document”.
“It is important to have the facts in this debate and not be frightened of the mysterious ‘unintended consequences’ to any legal shifts,” SPA CEO Matthew Deaner said at the time.
“The fact is, this regulation is well overdue.”
Over the weekend, Deaner said the new looming legislation was exciting and “very welcome news for the screen industry”.
“If done right, this will not only secure our industry, but also mark the start of a cultural resurgence in bringing Australian screen stories to audiences here and abroad. That is an incredible legacy to build for the nation,” he said.
“The release of a new National Cultural Policy is a landmark event for Australia’s creative industries, and SPA congratulates Minister Burke and all involved in the development of this.”